Werder Bremen 3-1 Athletic Club Bilbao
An imperious Aaron Hunt volley paved the way for Bremen's second UEFA Europa League win as the German side went top in Group L.
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An imperious Aaron Hunt volley paved the way for Werder Bremen's second win in Group L as the German side proved too powerful for Athletic Club Bilbao.
Both teams had won their opening UEFA Europa League group-stage encounters, but Hunt's sweet 19th-minute strike helped ensure it was Werder's 100 per cent record that remained intact. A first-half Naldo goal and a late Torsten Frings penalty meant Thomas Schaaf's men could shrug off the blows dealt by Peter Niemeyer's second-half dismissal and Fernando Llorente's late consolation strike for the visitors.
True to their natural instincts, the hosts began on the front foot, and an astutely-timed Mesut Özil run saw him pierce the visitors' defence, but Gorka Iraizoz proved equal to his low drive. However, the Athletic goalkeeper was powerless to prevent Hunt spectacularly putting Werder ahead with an angled volley soon after.
The vicious set-piece delivery of Francisco Yeste was often Athletic's only attacking outlet, and once was the Werder defence undone, but Gaizka Toquero miscued badly after Llorente's cut-back. The hosts' response was immediate and decisive as they doubled their lead with some delightful play four minutes before the break. Marko Marin released Claudio Pizarro with a clever chip and the Peruvian squared for the unmarked Naldo to side-foot home.
Joaquín Caparrós made a double change at half-time and the move initially rejuvenated Athletic with Javi Martínez's fierce drive giving Tim Wiese his first real test. Thomas Schaaf responded by bringing on Niemeyer, but the Werder coach's tactical tinkering barely had time to take effect as his substitute was shown two yellow cards in four minutes.
Llorente briefly revived Basque ambitions when he rolled round Per Mertesacker and fired crisply past Wiese in added time, but Torsten Frings ended any hopes of a revival, drilling home a spot-kick after Özil had been felled in the box.